Scam artists take aim at students
Two males in a silver Audi with New Hampshire plates were allegedly driving around campus trying to sell Elite Audio speakers to Dartmouth students on Tuesday. The unidentified men reportedly claimed that the speakers were worth $3,200 but that they were just trying to get rid of them.
One of the victims, Michael Mina '06, was walking to his car when the Audi pulled up next to him looking for directions. After talking for awhile, the suspects asked him if he wanted to buy speakers. The two posed as installation specialists and said that they had just happened to fall in the "most fortunate event" of having a few extra sets of speakers.
"[They said] they got them from their company, their company didn't mean to send them, they have to pick up new speakers, but they don't have room in their car," Mina said. "Their story all lined up actually, and everything seemed normal."
Mina offered to pay $500, hoping to resell them on Ebay for a profit.
"Everything looks legit. They have catalogs with prices in them," Mina said. "It all just looks like I'm getting a great deal."
Mina then got into the car with the men and drove to the Bank of America on Main Street to get money for the deal. Once the transaction was complete, he pulled out his laptop to look up the speakers but was unable to locate them online.
"The website that they gave is down. I have these brochures for it, but it's all fake. None of it exists like they say it does," he said.
According to Mina, the speakers were available only on Ebay, with price tags from $500 to $3,000. Some of the items were put up for sale by Elite Audio, the manufacture of the speakers, while others were sold by individuals who were equally scammed, he said. Mina reported the incident to Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department.
According to Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone, Mina's case is not so unusual.
"We always have a group of people coming out of Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire trying to sell speakers. Originally, we thought these were stolen speakers, but they're not stolen, they're misrepresentative of what their value is," Giaccone said. "I'd say these groups come onto campus once in the fall and once in the spring."
Mina said that he later saw the two men driving down Main Street with another student in the car, appearing to having already sold several speakers.
"They're not fake; they're actually good, decent speakers. They're just not worth $3.200," Mina said. "I got somewhere in the vicinity of $400 speakers for $500."
According to Giaccone, the New Hampshire fraud statute only protects against falsely labeled items, and therefore this incident does not apply. Tuesday's incident appears to be an example of price inflation more than fraud, Giaccone said.
At most this incident qualifies as a class B misdemeanor under section 638:6 of the New Hampshire Criminal Code, according to Giaccone, because it involves selling "adulterated or mislabeled commodities." According to the code, "mislabeled" items are those which vary "from the standard of truth or disclosure in labeling prescribed by or pursuant to any statute providing criminal penalties for such variance, or set by established commercial usage."
Giaccone said he thought that the New Hampshire fraud statue would likely not apply in this case, citing the fact that it protects against falsely labeled items, and not necessarily the reported price inflation.
"Trying to fit what happened...under this statute could be difficult at best," Giaccone said.
Giaccone said that Tuesday's incident should serve as a warning to students.
"If you fall prey, the law doesn't have much teeth behind it," he said.